Bristlecone pine

From Academic Kids

Bristlecone pines
Missing image

A Great Basin Bristlecone Pine
Scientific classification

Template:Taxobox sectio entry


Pinus aristata
Pinus longaeva
Pinus balfouriana

The bristlecone pines are a small group of pine trees (Family Pinaceae, genus Pinus, subsection Balfourianae) that can reach an age far greater than that of any other living thing known - up to nearly 5,000 years. There are three closely related species:

Currently, the oldest living specimen known is an individual of Pinus longaeva nick-named "Methuselah" (after Methuselah, the reportedly longest-lived person in the Bible), located in the White Mountains of eastern California, measured by core samples to be about 4,700 years old. The U.S. Forest Service does not reveal the actual position of "Methuselah" in the bristlecone grove, in order to protect the tree.

Missing image
This one might have died hundreds or thousands of years ago, but still stands. Its wood gives clues to scientists who read the rings to compare to rings of living trees, making a 10,000 year-long record.

A bristlecone older than "Methuselah" was cut down in 1964 by a geography graduate student performing research in an area now protected by Great Basin National Park in Nevada. The tree, posthumously named "Prometheus", was found to be about 4,900 years old by ring counting (not an easy task, because the trunks are very twisted and distorted). The inexperienced student who cut the tree had no idea of its age. "Prometheus" did not die in vain, however; the carbon content of the wood from its various rings was analyzed, providing an important calibration for radiocarbon dating.

The other two species are also long-lived, though not to the extreme extent of P. longaeva; specimens of both have been measured or estimated to be up to 3,000 years old.

Bristlecone pines grow in isolated groves at and just below tree-line. Between cold temperatures, high winds, and short growing seasons, the trees grow very slowly. The wood is very dense and resinous, and thus resistant to invasion by insects, fungi, and other potential pests. As the tree ages, much of its bark may die; in very old specimens often leaving only a narrow strip of living tissue to connect the roots to the handful of live branches.

Gnarled bristlecone pine wood
Gnarled bristlecone pine wood


  • Bailey, D. K. 1970. Phytogeography and taxonomy of Pinus subsection Balfourianae. Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 57: 210-249.
  • Richardson, D. M. (ed.). 1998. Ecology and Biogeography of Pinus. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 530 p. ISBN 0 521 55176 5.

External links

pl:Sosna oścista


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